Democrats: The plan is working if you let it work.

I hear a lot of people complaining, often, and loudly, about the Trump administration and then casting blame for the current situation on the Progressive faction of the party. “Bernie Bros” are held responsible for undercutting Hillary’s candidacy, and then pundits allege that Progressive Democrats not electable in competitive districts because of their refusal to compromise.   These complaints are wrong on a number of levels and I think we need to address them now before they become “accepted wisdom” in the rank and file democrat population.

Once the primary was over, Progressives wanted Trump to win.

Yes, you heard me: this is exactly the outcome we (at least 12% of us) wanted.   Using some of the guideposts from Rules for Radicals (Saul Alinsky’s seminal work on political activism in the US, that Ms. Clinton attacked in her college thesis), we chose Trump strategically.

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. “

We made Trump the enemy because he is an easy enemy to hate.  Simple to polarize and personalize, in fact, he goes out of his way to be a polarizing figure.  The harm his administration causes can be felt in homes across America – the stories of those who would lose healthcare, or who have lost jobs because of his decisions are eminently relatable.

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

You could literally fill up 24-hours per day of comedians lampooning Trump and his administration.

“If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

We have provoked violence in his core voters, and that has resulted in us being far more sympathetic.

“Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”

The anti-Trump movement has been non-stop news cycle coverage since the day he was inaugurated.

We can go on and on talking about it, but at its core, the concept is that Trump is the best enemy the Progressives could have wished for.  If we had instead supported Hillary Clinton, we would have had an enemy in the White House who was almost unassailable by the Progressive Caucus, and who would have certainly given the United Right a lightning rod of their own to organize against.  The net result of 4 to 8 years of neoliberal control followed by at least 4 years of alt-Right extremism – and the Progressive agenda simply cannot wait over a decade before implementation – we could literally all be under water by then.  All of that said, as much as Progressives would love to claim victory for defeating Hillary, the truth is, we didn’t.

Hillary lost the election because her platform was not sufficiently Libertarian to make her electable.

What professor Brian Schaffner shows is good aggregate data about Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconson, but it is also somewhat naive.

First it assumes that the Sanders primary voters are “defectors” from the Democratic party, because they voted in the Democratic Primary.    But in Michigan and Wisconsin, the Democratic Primary is OPEN, meaning, you did not need to be a Democrat to vote for Bernie against Hillary.  Self-identified independents voted for Sanders by a 72-28 margin in the Wisconsin and 71-29 margin in Michigan.   Bernie voters by and large do not identify as Democrats  – in prior elections they were the “Did Not Vote” party.  They were never part of the Democratic establishment, so it is completely unfair to characterize them as “defectors.”

The primaries showed over 100,000 more people voted in the Republican Primary than the Democratic Primary in each of these states: the voters were more passionately aligned with something on the Right than something on the Left.    Certainly that demographic difference in primary headcounts would have been more than enough to change the outcome of the election.

To understand what that something is, we need to look at the results of third party candidates in swing districts, who did remarkably well this election cycle.  Traditionally, third parties represent a more passionate commitment to a specific set of goals or principles than the mainstream parties are willing to embrace completely.  This cycle, the Green Party (which represents the Progressive goals of environmental protection and peace) and the Libertarian party (which represents the Conservative goals of limited federal government involvement and personal freedom) stood out from the crowd.   If you look at the election results, you will see that for the most part, the Green Party had no impact on results whatsoever – presumably because the fear of Trump rollbacks on environmental regulation (which has been realized) was enough to make them swallow their pride and vote Democratic.

The Libertarians, who nominated Gary Johnson, had no similar fears that forced them to vote with Trump – if Trump lost, there would probably be no changes of substance to current policies of the Obama administration – in essence they had nothing lose by voting their conscience.  If Trump won, he had included enough rhetoric about reducing government waste and deregulation that Libertarians could consider that a win.

The results were pretty impressive:

Gary Johnson Results in Swing State that Ended up Going Republican:
  • Florida: 2.2%
  • Michigan:  3.6%
  • Nevada: 3.3%
  • Pennsylvania:  2.4%
  • Wisconsin 3.6%

If the Democratic candidate had a platform that could capture even a portion of these libertarian votes, the result would have been a landslide victory over Trump.

Here is a table comparing these results to the Bernie-to-Trump voters.

Swing State Actual Votes for Gary Johnson Estimated Bernie-to-Trump Votes
Michigan 173,057 47,915
Wisconsin 106,442 51,317
Pennsylvania 142,653 117,100

It is very clear that the much larger impact on the results was the failure of the DNC to embrace Libertarian principles that are consistent with its’ own values.

Competitive districts can be won by local candidates who put the Liberal in Libertarian, not candidates who compromise their values for corporate handouts.

Bernie’s candidacy has proven that small donors can effectively fund a campaign.  There is no reason at all for the DNC to rely upon the good graces of Soros, Bezos, and massive hedge-funds to fund their campaigns, and in fact, in the districts that matter, the perception of Big Government and Big Business holding hands is a detriment not an asset.

In the recent special elections, we saw liberal candidates being defeated in almost every election, but the results are still informative.

John Osoff (a progressive Bernie-Democrat) won the first round special election in Georgia, but because he only got 48% of the vote (not a majority) he ended up losing in the runoff to a Trump-style Republican who only had the support of 19% of the initial voters.   He received the vast majority of his funding from small donors, and almost took a seat that has been Republican for decades.

In South Carolina, which elected Trump by 14.1%, the Republicans almost lost a seat to Archie Parnell (he lost by 3.2%).   Parnell is a South Carolina local.  Despite working for the DOJ and being a former Goldman Sachs employee (ie a traditional neo-liberal) he had a chance in this race because he was funny, down-to-earth, and promised to eliminate corporate tax giveaways, create jobs, let people buy prescriptions from Canada.  But he didn’t quite seal the deal either.

In Montana, again it was a much closer race than anyone expected, with the Bernie Democrat, Rob Quist, losing by 5.6%.  The Libertarian candidate on the ballot, Mark Wicks?  He got 5.7% of the votes.

And these states are not even “in-play” for the Presidential election, but it seems like a Democrat who embraces both the progressive ideals of the party and the limited government control over personal choice could have won in each of them.

There is a workable framework to take both the Presidency and the Legislature in 2020, but traditional Democrats need to get out of the way in order for it to work.

Do not impeach Trump.  It is essential that his name be the one on the ballot in 2020.  The ability organize in response to his ham-handed overt racism, attacks upon the environment, and the damage he is doing to the office of the presidency will dramatically improve voter turnout against him, in much the same way “counter-protesters” are showing up in march larger numbers than the Unite-the-Right groups were ever able to organize.

Choose candidates that can embrace libertarian principles by coming out forcefully in favor of legalized marijuana and keeping the federal government out of educational and health care mandates, in favor of opt-in programs for states who need assistance.  Make sure your candidates focus on people, not engaging with Big Business.  Make sure your candidates are not seen as “carpet bagging liberals” who just came in to take advantage of the voters.  If you can, embrace enough libertarian principles to convince the libertarian candidates to drop out and endorse your democratic candidate.

Do these things, and stop making your platform almost exclusively one engaged in identity politics and reliant upon large corporate partnerships, and we can take back the legislative and executive branches of our government from these terrible people who live only to exploit the weak and vulnerable.


If You Don’t Understand Why People Would Vote for Trump, You are a Fucking Idiot

This election season has made abundantly clear to me how many people I consider friends and political allies are complete fucking morons.  Almost daily, I receive a notice in my news feed, or a hear a discussion on Public Radio, or overhear a water cooler conversation that involves some version of: “Why would anyone vote for this misogynist douche-bag?”

They struggle with this idea for hours on end, bemoaning how sad it is that so many Americans seem to be the kind of bigoted throwbacks to another generation that the liberal vanguard thought they had largely defeated.  On and on they blather about how David Duke endorses this guy, how he has offended every minority in America, how he is not fit to lead a one man show, much less a nation etc. etc.

All the while, I just can’t help but think, how stupid are my friends to not get this?  No wonder nothing good ever happens for America – if the best the good people have to offer is this dumb struck name calling response to a nationwide phenomena then maybe there really is no hope for progress.  When Hillary Clinton must resort to calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” she is obviously just as confused as the rest of the liberals who are blindly following her.

Trump Supporters Are Not Idiots or Racists: They Are Rationally Self Interested

The famous novelist – philosopher Ayn Rand very powerfully argues for the concept of objectivism.  The theory of objectivism as she puts it, is that “man is a heroic being with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”   Libertarians and conservatives across America have adopted this view for decades.  She was twice a best seller in her lifetime because of the appeal of this philosophy to broad swaths of the population, even though it was largely ignored by academics.  It is absolutely essential to understand this if you are ever going to understand why Donald Trump is so popular among the general public – the objectivist moral philosophy is at the core of the political divide in our country.

If you accept objectivism as your model for ethical decision making, many things fall neatly into place.  Laissez Faire capitalism becomes an ethical imperative at the national and state level: interfering with individual rights to pursue whatever business pursuits one desires is literally considered evil.  On the personal level, decision making comes down to one simple principle: if I pursue this course of action, will it make me better off and allow me to achieve more.

Taking those principles and applying them to the current election, you can very quickly and easily understand why Trump has the support he does.  If you are a white man living in America, you will personally benefit from any policies that reinforce structural racism and sexism.  If women cannot participate fully in the workforce, then men will have a bigger share of the pie.  If black men are incarcerated at higher rates, then white men will get the jobs that could have gone to black men.  If people from outside of the country are not allowed entry, they cannot compete with you for either jobs or government benefits.  If our international relationships are destabilized, it will create opportunities for profiteering by largely white male owned and directed financial speculators.  Across the board, a Trump presidency makes white men better off individually than they currently are.  It is not even debatable.

But What is Best for White Men is Not What is Best for America!

If you are making that argument, you didn’t understand what I meant when I discussed the powerful influence of objectivism on the American social conscience. A very large swath of our nation, 45% of likely voters or more, believe that not only is doing what is right for themselves is best for America, but they also think that you are an immoral person if you behave any differently.  To be self deprecating, to accept less than you can demand for work that you do, to make accommodations for people who are struggling – these are the equivalent of grave sins to the objectivist.  They believe at a very basic level that people who voluntarily chose to be less happy so that others will suffer less are bad people.  They view those behaviors as “enabling” and “weakening” our nation.  Until you understand and accept that this is driving voter behavior, you will never understand the Trump constituency.  And if you cannot understand it, you cannot defeat it.

A Better Candidate for a Better Tomorrow: How Captain America would have performed in the final presidential debate of 2016.

A fictional account of how the debate might have gone if there was a candidate who stood for something we all care about –  Captain America.  I have taken the transcripts of the questions asked on CNN, and added fictional responses from the modern Steve Rogers, as he is exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Tell me what you think in the comments.cap1

WALLACE: The first topic is the Supreme Court.  The next president will almost certainly have at least one appointment and likely or possibly two or three appointments. Which means that you will, in effect, determine the balance of the court for what could be the next quarter century.

First of all, where do you want to see the court take the country?

And secondly, what’s your view on how the Constitution should be interpreted? Do the founders’ words mean what they say or is it a living document to be applied flexibly according to changing circumstances? You have two minutes.

CPT ROGERS:  Thank you very much, Chris.  The Supreme Court is first and foremost, the example that our nation sets for the world – it’s decisions are supposed to define what our great nation considers justice.  When those decisions are compromised by politics and campaign contributions, we compromise our integrity before the whole world.  So, to me, the Court needs to find a way out of this partisan quagmire – it needs to look past issues of “conservativism” and “liberalism” and lead us to the truth, no matter how ugly that might be. 

I know, as a man who sometimes feels a little out of time himself, that people will make fun of you when you do something that they see as quaint or outdated.  But you know what? The values I held to as a young man – charity, respect, integrity, honesty, bravery – those things don’t, ‘change with the times.”  Our founders weren’t perfect people – but they knew that, and they gave us a method for course correction – it’s called amending the Constitution.  If the laws don’t represent who we are anymore, let’s fix ‘em.  But let’s not pretend that people who lived in the time of steamboats had the answer for how we handle internet regulation – that’s not living in the past, that’s lying about it.

WALLACE: We now have about 10 minutes for an open discussion. I want to focus on two issues that, in fact, by the justices that you name could end up changing the existing law of the land. First is guns.

In the 2008 Heller case, the court ruled that there is a constitutional right to bear arms, but a right that is reasonably limited. Those were the words of the Judge Antonin Scalia who wrote the decision. What’s wrong with that?

CPT ROGERS:  Not a darn thing Chris.  I’m a firm believer in making sure that the people of America can defend themselves when people like me can’t be there to fight for them.  I saw what happens first hand when you disarm the people – corrupt governments and evil men make the innocent suffer and they have no defense.  And making people register their firearms sounds well and good, but you already know how I feel about names on lists.  The check on crime isn’t to take away people’s strength – it’s to give them a better way to live.

WALLACE:  How will you ensure the Second Amendment is protected?

CPT ROGERS:  I’ll end the federal firearm registry altogether, and I’ll encourage states to do the same.  I’d push for the repeal of all legislation whose primary effect is to make our people incapable of defending themselves from real danger.  And to make sure that people are safe, I’ll do everything in my power to reduce the social causes of violence – that means every American will have the financial freedom to pursue a meaningful life – parenthood, a professional career, artistic and educational pursuits.  

There was this fella named Abe Maslow – a doctor – who was coming up at about the same time I went on ice.  This guy, he really knew his stuff – clean air, water and food for every American has to come first.  Without that, people turn into animals Chris.    Once my administration locks that down, then we can talk about a safety net – FEMA, paid family leave, single payer medical coverage – stuff like that.  

With those things in place, I trust my fellow Americans to live good lives – Americans are good people Chris.  Even people who have committed crimes are, for the most part, victims of their circumstances.  I chose to believe in that fundamental goodness in all of us, that just needs the right opportunities to grow. 

WALLACE: Do you oppose any limits on assault weapons, any limits on high- capacity magazines. Do you support a national right to carry law. Why, sir?

CPT ROGERS:  I trust people Chris.  I don’t worry about a lone gunman being a threat to democracy.  Lone gunmen don’t build helicarriers.  Corporate military powers do.  If we are going to safeguard America, we need to stop them and give power back to the people.

WALLACE: Well, let’s pick up on another issue which divides you and the justices that whoever ends up winning this election appoints could have a dramatic effect there, and that’s the issue of abortion.  Do you want the court, including the justices that you will name, to overturn Roe v. Wade, which includes — in fact, states — a woman’s right to abortion?

CPT ROGERS:    Chris, to me, every human life matters.  So whether you are talking about an abortion or an execution, I have to take a stand and say that is something I cannot support. 

That being said, there are cases where sometimes a woman is forced to make a choice between saving her own life and saving that of her unborn child.  I don’t see any government having to right to make that choice for her – it is one of the hardest decisions a woman will ever be faced with, and they have to decide for themselves what they can live with and what they can’t. 

So far as when a bundle of cells becomes a human life?  I’m no philosopher and no scientist Chris, your guess is as good as mine.   Neither states nor nations have a magic ball that tells them on the 181st day after making love, it’s a baby.  I trust women and their doctors to do what’s right.

WALLACE: All right. Let’s move on to the subject of immigration. Do you want to build a wall? Do you want to create a pathway to citizenship?  How will you secure our southern border?

CPT ROGERS:   When I hear “build a wall” you know what I think? I think Berlin. I think China.  I never want America to be a place that evokes those images in children around the world.  No wall.  Never. Period.

So far as immigrants are concerned, I am the son of immigrants Chris.  We are a nation built by people who came here seeking a chance at a better life.  That is what defines us as a nation.  When I hear people saying that they are afraid that one out of a thousand refugees might be a bad guy in disguise, you know what I think? That is 999 desperate women and children whose lives we just saved by opening up our door and taking them in. 

If we want to secure our nation, the way to do it is to restore America’s image as something other nations should aspire to – not something to revile.  We end the drug war that fuels the conflicts throughout Latin America.  We end our financial support of repressive regimes that use American bombs against their own civilian populations.  We become the best versions of ourselves. That’s how we secure our borders.

WALLACE: Secretary Clinton,gave a speech to a Brazilian bank, for $225,000, we’ve learned from the WikiLeaks, that said this, and I want to quote. “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.”   Is that your dream, open borders?

CPT ROGERS:   First, let me just say, thank you to Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden for having the bravery to share, not only with the American people, but with all the people of the world, the truth about what our so-called leaders are doing.  My first day in office, every one of them gets an unconditional pardon.  Without patriots like them, there would be no check on tyranny.

Second, let me be completely clear – I will never accept any amount of money to compromise my integrity. Even the appearance of impropriety leaves an indelible stain on the image of the American presidency and that is something we just cannot allow.  There is already more blood on our flag than there should ever have to be – let’s not cover it in more filth.

So, when I talk about being a nation that embraces immigration, a nation whose arms are wide open and accepting of everyone, I am talking about maintaining our policy of granting refugees and asylum seekers a safe haven from a violent world.  For other people, whether they are itinerant workers or immigrants looking to start over in America for the long haul, I think we can find a way to make them feel welcome.  Everyone who can afford to do so has a duty to pay taxes, that’s a fundamental fact in our nation – and it doesn’t matter if you are just helping harvest grapes for the season or you want to be a permanent resident of this great nation.  But so long as you do that, you have a place in my America.

WALLACE: And I would like to ask you this direct question. The top national security officials of this country do believe that Russia has been behind these hacks. Even if you don’t know for sure whether they are, do you condemn any interference by Russia in the American election?

CPT ROGERS:   One of my very best friends was born and raised in Russia.  She is someone I trust implicitly.  I trust her with my life.  Everything that comes out of Russia isn’t immediately suspect Chris – that cannot be how we do things here.  So far as “interference” is concerned – if sharing the truth with the American people about who these people are [gestures to the other candidates], how  they pretend to be our friends and what these people say behind closed doors is interference, then I say keep it up.  America needs that kind of interference.

WALLACE: We’re going to — no, we are going to move on to the next topic, which is the economy. And I hope we handle that as well as we did immigration. You also have very different ideas about how to get the economy growing faster. Secretary Clinton, in your plan, government plays a big role. You see more government spending, more entitlements, more tax credits, more tax penalties. Mr. Trump, you want to get government out with lower taxes and less regulation. But in this overview, please explain to me why you believe that your plan will create more jobs and growth for this country and your opponent’s plan will not

CPT ROGERS:   I am not an accountant Chris. I’m just a simple guy who tries to make a difference when he is given the chance.  But I can tell you this – if being wealthy means you can hire an accountant to help you do everything possible to avoid helping your fellow Americans by paying a fair share of taxes, and being poor means paying taxes you can’t afford or losing your families’ home for generations, then something is wrong.  Complex tax laws only benefit the wealthy at the cost of everyone else.  It’s the poor and the middle class who spend money in our economy – rich people hide their money over seas or put it into IRA’s and real estate shelters.  We need a tax plan that puts every dollar possible into the hands of people that are going to spend it, and that is so simple anyone can understand what is going on when they look at a tax return.  I’ve heard people talk about a flat tax, maybe that is a good way to go. 

But what these two people are talking about? No way Chris.  Trumps’ plan didn’t work in the 80’s when Ronald Reagan come up with it.  And Hillary’s plan hasn’t worked for middle class Americans for the last decade under Obama.  It’s time we stop choosing between two bad choices.

WALLACE: We’re going to drill down into this a little bit more. But in this overview, please explain to me why you believe that your plan will create more jobs and growth for this country and your opponent’s plan will not.

CPT ROGERS:   I said it before Chris, you give people the basics – a roof over their head, clean drinking water, basic medical services, a good education – and they will surprise you with what they can do.  Everyone I have ever met wants to contribute – they want to help their neighbors live good lives – they just don’t always get the opportunity.  You keep the wealthy from hoarding what they have taken from Americans over the last century, you make sure we take care of basic needs, and people will innovate all on their own.  They will find a way to contribute.  It’s not economics – it’s who we are.

WALLACE: All right. We are going to get to foreign hot spots in a few moments, but the next segment is fitness to be president of the United States. Mr. Trump, at the last debate, you said your talk about grabbing women was just that, talk, and that you’d never actually done it. And since then, as we all know, nine women have come forward and have said that you either groped them or kissed them without their consent.

Why would so many different women from so many different circumstances over so many different years, why would they all in this last couple of weeks make up — you deny this — why would they all make up these stories?

Since this is a question for both of you, Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump says what your husband did and that you defended was even worse. Mr. Trump, you go first.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGERCPT ROGERS:   My mother taught me to respect the woman I’m with Chris. I know I grew up a few years ahead of Mr. Trump, but I am pretty sure things didn’t change that much.  Being a gentleman still means something to me Chris.

So far as Mr. Clinton, well, I think you know a man by the company he keeps.  And I’m pretty sure I saw them both at Chelseas wedding a few years back – they have a lot more friends in common than I’m sure Mrs. Clinton would like to admit. 

I’m not the kind of man who attacks women to win an election, so please forgive me, but I’m not going to take your bait here.  Mrs. Clinton makes up her own mind about her relationships, and the voters can decide for themselves if they can stand with her or not.

WALLACE: In this bucket about fitness to be president, there’s been a lot of developments over the last 10 days since the last debate. I’d like to ask you about them. These are questions that the American people have.

Secretary Clinton, during your 2009 Senate confirmation hearing, you promised to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with your dealing with the Clinton Foundation while you were secretary of state, but e-mails show that donors got special access to you. Those seeking grants for Haiti relief were considered separately from non-donors, and some of those donors got contracts, government contracts, taxpayer money.

Can you really say that you kept your pledge to that Senate committee? And why isn’t what happened and what went on between you and the Clinton Foundation, why isn’t it what Mr. Trump calls pay to play?

CPT ROGERS:   What happened then, and what is happening now, to the people of Haiti is a tragedy that most Americans cannot even really appreciate without being there themselves.  When you trust private organizations run by the wealthy elites of America to help protect the weak and suffering of the world, you are making a mistake.  They aren’t accountable, they don’t have the kind of influence they need to get the work done that needs to get done, and there is no guarantee that they will be able to keep their promises.

As president, I’ll re-allocate military funding to provide resources for rebuilding the infrastructure of cities both here and abroad that have been devastated by war and natural disasters.  And I will open up an avenue for non-military public service that will allow each and every willing and able American to take a direct role in rebuilding the world we helped tear apart.  Seeing the faces of those who suffer as a result of our past will help us understand why we need to build a better future.  It’s too easy to hate those you don’t know.

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you.

Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you — his words — “will absolutely accept the result of this election.” Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

There is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

CPT ROGERS:   You know what Chris, this question is pretty unfair.  Who pays your salary?  How much do they contribute towards political campaigns?  This country has for far too long stood by while evil people amassed more and more wealth and power.  If they use that power to control the entire process of choosing a leader – if no matter who you vote for, you are voting for HYDRA, then no we cannot and we should not stand peacefully by and let that happen.  There has to be a point where we draw a line in the sand and say here, here but no further.  Maybe that time and that place is this November at the ballot box.

WALLACE: Hold on, folks. This doesn’t do any good for anyone. Let’s please continue the debate, and let’s move on to the subject of foreign hot spots.

The Iraqi offensive to take back Mosul has begun. If they are successful in pushing ISIS out of that city and out of all of Iraq, the question then becomes, what happens the day after? And that’s something that whichever of you ends up — whoever of you ends up as president is going to have to confront.

Will you put U.S. troops into that vacuum to make sure that ISIS doesn’t come back or isn’t replaced by something even worse?

CPT ROGERS:   You’re darn right I will put boots on the ground.  What are the policies we have now? Stand by and let a vicious dictator kill his own people?  Do nothing while our allies in Kurdistan fight and die, embattled on all sides?  No I will not accept that Chris. 

I say we wage a war not on some vague notion like terror.  I say we wage a war on war criminals, on people who think that it is still okay to arrest and execute your political opposition, to murder people for choosing to love whoever they want to love.  And I say we use every weapon in our arsenal – that means we cut off trade with people who behead women and children.  We bring convicted war criminals before a national tribunal to face justice.  We make it very clear that not only will the US not support you if you attack your own people, but we will actively do everything we can to end your reign of terror. 

WALLACE: Let’s turn to Aleppo. In the last debate, you were both asked about the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo. And I want to follow up on that, because you said several things in that debate which were not true, sir. You said that Aleppo has basically fallen. In fact, there are a quarter of a million people still living there and being slaughtered.  Syria and Russia are busy fighting ISIS. In fact, they have been the ones who’ve been bombing and shelling eastern Aleppo, and they just announced a humanitarian pause, in effect, admitting that they have been bombing and shelling Aleppo. Would you like to clear that up, sir?

CPT ROGERS:   If that’s not clear enough for you Chris, let me put it like this. [looks directly at camera.] I’m coming for you Assad.  And America is coming with me. 

WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, you have talked about — and in the last debate and again today — that you would impose a no-fly zone to try to protect the people of Aleppo and to stop the killing there. President Obama has refused to do that because he fears it’s going to draw us closer or deeper into the conflict.

And General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says you impose a no-fly zone, chances are you’re going to get into a war — his words — with Syria and Russia. So the question I have is, if you impose a no-fly zone — first of all, how do you respond to their concerns? Secondly, if you impose a no-fly zone and a Russian plane violates that, does President Clinton shoot that plane down?

CPT ROGERS:   Mr. Putin, you have a choice to make.  You can either protect the innocent people of Syria, or you can protect a brutal dictator.  You can’t do both.  Join us – free those people – be a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem.  We will not stand by, no matter the danger to our own people, while innocents suffer at the hands of evil men.  Never again will we will let the Hitlers of the world run roughshod over the powerless.  It ends now – and if blood is the price of freedom, that is a price America will pay again and again.captain-america-civil-war-2-trailer-i-could-do-this-all-day_1050_591_81_s_c1

WALLACE: We need to move on to our final segment, and that is the national debt, which has not been discussed until tonight.

Our national debt, as a share of the economy, our GDP, is now 77 percent. That’s the highest since just after World War II. But the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says, Secretary Clinton, under your plan, debt would rise to 86 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. Mr. Trump, under your plan, they say it would rise to 105 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. The question is, why are both of you ignoring this problem?

CPT ROGERS:   The answer is simple Chris.  They are ignoring the problem because its not one they will ever have to the feel the consequences of in their lifetimes.  They are ignoring it because they know it will take hard choices to resolve it – choices that may not be politically beneficial.  I will reduce the national debt in my 8 years in office by dramatically reducing the size of our military budget – a small, nimble fighting force can accomplish a lot more than a bloated out of control monster.  I will dramatically change the way we handle entitlements in this country by reducing expensive red tape and overhead costs.  I will dramatically reduce the cost of providing health care by requiring a single payer government run health care plan, the profits from which will go to the people, not to big pharmaceutical companies.  Tactical, efficient, direct action can save our nation Chris.

WALLACE: All right. The one last area I want to get into with you in this debate is the fact that the biggest driver of our debt is entitlements, which is 60 percent of all federal spending. Now, the Committee for federal — a Responsible Federal Budget has looked at both of your plans and they say neither of you has a serious plan that is going to solve the fact that Medicare’s going to run out of money in the 2020s, Social Security is going to run out of money in the 2030s, and at that time, recipients are going to take huge cuts in their benefits.

So, in effect, the final question I want to ask you in this regard is would you make a deal to save Medicare and Social Security that included both tax increases and benefit cuts, in effect, a grand bargain on entitlements?

CPT ROGERS:   No.  Social Security and Medicare are underfunded as it is Chris –  the benefits for most people are not enough to cover all of their basic retirement and healthcare needs.  They need to be expanded, not cut – maybe an alternative is a good idea, something like a basic income guarantee you might have heard about.  But no, absolutely not, I would not cut Medicare or Social Security benefits.  If we need to transfer funding from other government programs to keep them afloat, let’s do that.  If we need to increase taxes on those of us who are doing to the best to keep them afloat, then we can do that to.  But taking away anything from those of us who are already most vulnerable? No. Never. It’s un-American.

WALLACE: This is — this is the final time, probably to both of your delight, that you’re going to be on a stage together in this campaign. I would like to end it on a positive note. You had not agreed to closing statements, but it seems to me in a funny way that might make it more interesting because you haven’t prepared closing statements.

So I’d like you each to take — and we’re going to put a clock up, a minute, as the final question in the final debate, to tell the American people why they should elect you to be the next president. This is another new mini-segment.

CPT ROGERS:   It’s pretty simple Chris.  Americans don’t want to be controlled and manipulated by rich real estate tycoons who make their living off of squeezing every drop of blood sweat and tears out of the people. American’s don’t want to lied to by a leader who openly says one thing while privately doing another, who accepts donations from murderous regimes and who funds her private life and her campaign with money from a corrupt financial market.  Americans want a leader who doesn’t want authority, but is willing to accept the burden of leadership because one of us has to step up and stand for what’s right.  America is the wealthiest nation in all of human history, yet, we seem incapable of even providing basic healthcare and education to all of our own people.  America has the largest military the world has ever seen, but it can’t seem to defeat even small groups of tribal terrorists living impoverished in a desert.  America has since its founding been a nation based on the idea of that together through democracy, we can make a difference, but we have some of the lowest voter turnout in the civilized world.  These things have to change Chris.  And neither the Democratic nor the Republican party has any plans to change it.

WALLACE: Thank you Captain Rogers.

The Weakness of the Case for Hillary Clinton

Recently, after months of being asked to spell it out clearly, a Clinton supporter who is part of a progressive Facebook group shared his reasons for supporting her as the next Democratic candidate for President of the United States.  It was great to see the debate finally move from generalities to specifics.  Looking at the reasons in detail, I discovered that much of what people believe about her bonafides just does not stand up to inspection. 


Hillary Clinton has a great track record of her work as chair of the Arkansas Education Standards Committee

Except… what she did at the time was attack the teachers union and support an unconstitutional school funding policy.  Arkansas has long ranked among the lowest dollars spent per student in the nation, and her policies continued that decades long fundamental problem.  Arkansas didn’t make positive changes in compliance with the Supreme Court until 2007 – well after Ms. Clinton had moved on to “bigger” issues.

Hillary Clinton founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

Except… despite 30 years of “Advocacy” by her organization, Arkansas still has some of the worst child poverty rates in America (29%).  Child victims of abuse and neglect are up by 4.5% since 2009.  From 2012-2013, for every 100 Arkansas families living in poverty, only 6 received TANF benefits. As of early 2014, Arkansas had 2,514 children on its waiting list for child care assistance.   Her advocacy agency was an epic fail at actually helping Arkansas children.
Hillary Clinton was named one of top 100 most powerful lawyers in America twice.

In 1988 and 1991 she was indeed named among the most influential lawyers in the US, she was the first chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, and her husband was the sitting governor of Arkansas.    Setting aside the fact that most jobs I know don’t really care about what you did 25 years ago,  it is worth noting exactly what those awards recognized.  They referred primarily to her work with the Rose Law Firm, for which she compensated upwards of $200,000 per year.  She didn’t practice trial law, but rather worked as a “rainmaker” for the firm, bringing in influential and wealthy clients as a result of her position on several major boards of directors and her husband’s position as governor.  Rumors of financial impropriety and abuse of office during her employment at the Rose Law Firm were part of what prevented her from running for governor in 1990.  So, in essence, this  “job qualification” is that she has a history of getting paid a lot of money to broker relationships amongst the wealthy.

Hillary Clinton was First Lady for Eight Years

Could you list in your resume for working at Starbucks that your husband managed a Starbucks?  That is not experience.  It’s called “nepotism,” or  “feudal monarchy,” when you are given a position of power because of your spousal legacy of authority.

Hillary Clinton was a U.S. Senator from New York for Eight Years

Except… during her time as Senator, Hillary effectively destroyed her relationship with the New York City first responders.   She accepted literally hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street banks during her campaign, and then voted for pro-Wall Street anti-consumer legislation that would change bankruptcy laws in 2001.    She also voted for both the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“If we can exercise our power wisely and well, we can make America great again.”  – Hillary Clinton, 2008

Where have I heard that since then?  Maybe someone picked it up and ran with it after he heard her say it at his 2005 wedding, or while working with her after donating on four separate occasions to her Senate campaigns and to her 2008 presidential campaign.
She Did an Excellent Job for President Obama as his Secretary of State

Except… during her tenure as Secretary of State she:

  • Supported the continuation of American interventionism,
  • Helped American gun manufacturers sell guns to Libyan rebel groups, who in turn violated a U.N. weapons embargo
  • Backed Israel in its continued settlement development in direct contradiction of U.N. mandates,
  • Expanded anti-Venezualan policies that led to the collapse of their economy
  • Helped support a military coup in Honduras which has since led to the murder of hundreds of environmental activists, reporters and members of the LGBTQ community.

The Clinton Global Health Initiative

Again this really like running on your spouse’s resume, but that aside there is ample evidence that it’s not as “wonderful” a group as you might think.

Her Stance on Women’s Rights, Abortion and Equal Pay

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both rated 100% on Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s congressional scorecard for their perfect voting records on women’s health and rights.   They both supported the Freedom of Choice Act and the Equal Pay Act, which did not pass.  They both have a 100% voting rating from NARAL, and a 0% voting record from National Right to Life.   So, although this does appear to be a “real” qualification, it does not distinguish her in any way from her primary rival.

Hillary Clinton Supports Equal Rights and the LGBT Community

Except… that is a very recent change indeed.   In 1996, she supported her husband’s signing the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that defined federal marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

In January of 2000, she said, “Marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.”

And again in July of 2004,   Hillary said that she believed that marriage was “a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”

And again in May of 2007, Clinton remarked that she was “opposed” to gay marriage though she stated she supported civil unions.

Email gate was even more revealing – she told her staff not to change U.S. passport forms from “Mother” and “Father” to “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”

In late 2010, the State Department made an exceedingly innocuous change to U.S. passport application forms. Instead of listing “Mother” and “Father,” these forms would now list “Parent 1” and “Parent 2.”   She said could “live with letting people in nontraditional families choose another descriptor” so long as we retained the presumption of mother and father.  She caved into what she saw as a potential “Fox-generated media storm.”

Bill Clinton told interview and historian Taylor Branch, that his wife found gay rights “harder to swallow” and experienced “discomfort” around “gay people who were kind of acting out.”

It was not until 2013 that she started saying in public that she was in favor of gay marriage.

She is Much Tougher on gun Control than Sanders

Honestly, I’m not sure what that means exactly.   As near as I can tell, Hillary’s position on gun control is to “say whatever people want to hear” since no liberal gun control policies are likely to pass Congress.    At the same time, her actions continue to support international arms manufacture and distribution. 

She wants to fix the broken criminal justice system.

Except… she does not support retroactive modification of sentences for things like parity between crack and cocaine convictions.  She has said, “Drug use is a serious problem, and I have long supported strong antidrug legislation.”

As first lady, she lobbied for President Clinton’s crime bill, which expanded the list of crimes subject to the federal death penalty.  That same bill is one of the primary factors behind the rising incarceration rate for blacks and Latinos. It earmarked $8 billion dollars for prisons and continued a trend to harsher sentencing.

She has also specifically said , “We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The three strikes and you’re out for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.”

And she has been a longtime advocate of the death penalty.

She is a Woman

Except… so are Angela Merkel, Nancy Reagan, Ayn Rand, Sarah Palin and Margaret Thatcher.

An Open Letter to Marvel Regarding the Fantastic Four

Dear Marvel:

Please rescue the Fantastic Four from Fox.  What has been done to this series for over a decade now is nothing less than shameful.  Re-boot after re-boot, attempting to capture more and wider demographics by casting pretty bodies of various shades is not a method for great film making.  The way to make people believe that the superhero genre can be a true art form is to cast professionals and tell a compelling story.  Simply putting a hot blonde in a body suit does the brand, the fans and the genre a grave disservice.

Here is a solution that I will give you for free.  Start by casting actual adults who can lend a certain level of gravitas and believability to the characters.

Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards): Marc Maron

First, Marc doesn’t even need to dye his hair or put on fake glasses.  He looks exactly like Reed Richards.  Then, take his self deprecation, his negativity towards relationships with women, and his general sense of shame, and sprinkle in just enough humor to make us laugh and take pity on him at the same time.  You cannot ask for someone better to play this part.

Invisible Woman (Sue Richards): Naomi Watts 

A gorgeous adult female, with the ability to make you think she stays in a relationship with a scientist incapable of giving her the love she deserves because she knows he is a better man that he believes he is.  Naomi Watts can make you feel that she is both strong and vulnerable.  You can understand that she truly feels “invisible” in the shadow of Mr. Fantastic.

The Human Torch (Johnny Storm): Josh Holloway

Josh is an expert at playing a “heel.”  The guy who is handsome and usually right, but who you really don’t want to like because he is kind of a dick about it.  Basically, his claim to fame is being Johnny Storm.  Arguably the most egotistical of the Fantastic Four, the best written Johnny Storm arcs show someone is full of bravado, but really, is just a vulnerable little brother on the inside who will do whatever he can to look out for his sister.  Josh would be perfect for this. It also helps that he looks like he really could be Naomi Watts brother.

The Thing (Ben Grimm): Idris Alba

Last but certainly not least is Irdis Alba.  Unlike the other characters who you really have to stretch (no pun intended) to re-work their racial background, Ben Grimm can easily be darker toned if you feel the need to make a more racially diverse casting decision.  But he’s not just a “token” handsome black man.  In fact, by turning him into the Thing, you really never get to see just what a heart throb of a body he has.  Instead, you get his amazing voice and intense beyond words eyes.  And because in real life he carries himself as a man who has the kind of imposing physical presence of the Thing, motion capture will translate very well into the rocky form he develops.  The Thing is the really the emotional center of the team, the “rock” that they all lean on when things are at their worst.  Idris Alba can and does bring that powerful stage emotion to everything he does.  Cast this man!

The last thing you need is a great story to develop a script from.  A story that has drama and realism, not just flashy special effects.  A story that let’s you see who the “Fantastic Four,” really are and why they do what they do.  So do not waste our time with the “cosmic” origin story that takes up an hour of screen time.  The “super”-ness of the team is not what makes you care about them, it is their humanity.  So you need a story that highlights that.

And so, I give you, the “Unthinkable” arc by Mark Waid.  

Waid tells the story of a man who, as a result of his own pride, destroyed the lives of the people who cared about most.  A man who, desperate to keep his friends from being the objects of fear and loathing, essentially tries to trick them into being “heroes” – hoping that fame will keep them from growing to hate the monsters they have become.

And it is a tale of parent’s love for their child, capture, pain and eventual victory, but not without a cost.  It is a real human story about people whose powers make them more vulnerable, not less.  It is, basically, a story fans and newcomers to the genre would want to hear.

So Marvel, please, I beg you, take this and run with it.  Buy your heroes back.  Help us Stan Lee, you are our only hope.

PS:  I know Mr. Alba is currently Heimdall in the Thor universe but it is not necessary that he continue doing that.  First, they got rid of his eyes and his physique but putting him in a ridiculous outfit.  Then, they gave him a role that is effectively “cosmic turn-style operator.”  Marvel can correct that waste of talent.

The Tragedy of Living to Learn You Were Right

In December of 1977, in only his second year on the United States Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion in the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Harry Mimms.  Now, 95-years-old and five years retired from the bench, Justice Stevens must watch his predictions unfold with tragic consequences.  His inability to convince two more of his colleagues to support his dissent four decades ago, literally killed Sandra Bland this month at a jail in Texas.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the case of Ms. Bland, tSandra_Blandhis is her.

Or rather, this was her, until she was pulled over by an officer in Texas two weeks ago, for failure to signal a lane change, forced to exit her vehicle under threat of violence, arrested, held on $5,000 bond, before eventually asphyxiating to death in her prison cell.

How does that happen?  How does a routine stop where no crimes were committed turn into an innocent young woman dying alone in a cell?

To answer that question, we turn to Justice John Paul Stevens.  Back in 1977, when the Supreme Court was faced with question of whether a police officer can order a driver out of a vehicle during a routine traffic stop without violating the law against unreasonable search and seizures, Justice Stevens was one of only three judges who seemed to think this was a bad idea.

Justice Stevens was absolutely right when he told his colleagues:

“The Court cannot seriously believe that the risk to the arresting officer is so universal that his safety is always a reasonable justification for ordering a driver out of his car. The commuter on his way home to dinner, the parent driving children to school, the tourist circling the Capitol, or the family on a Sunday afternoon outing hardly pose the same threat as a driver curbed after a high-speed chase through a high-crime area late at night.”

He was eloquent in warning us that:

“A woman stopped at night may fear for her own safety”

And he was without a doubt aware even in the 1970’s that a:

“Driver who presents no possible threat of violence may regard the police command as nothing more than an arrogant and unnecessary display of authority.”

Justice Stevens knew that there had to be some limit to what an officer can order an innocent citizen to do.  Some restraint or, “guarantee against arbitrary harassment.”  But on that day in 1977 he could not convince 2 more white men that he was right.  Because he could not do that, there is no such guarantee.  Arbitrary harassment by police officers is the rule of the day, and when people reach the limit of their indignity, some collapse under the weight.  Some take their own life.

And in this case, as in the thousands more, documented and undocumented stops police perform every day, this indignity is rationed out not based on sound principals of policing – instead it is delivered to those who can least afford to defend themselves.  Justice Stevens knew the poisoned fruit these seeds would grow and now that fruit has grown ripe throughout our nation.

His final argument echos hallow in the halls of American justice.

“To eliminate any requirement that an officer be able to explain the reasons for his actions signals an abandonment of effective judicial supervision of this kind of seizure and leaves police discretion utterly without limits. Some citizens will be subjected to this minor indignity while others—perhaps those with more expensive cars, or different bumper stickers, or different-colored skin—may escape it entirely.”

And so ends another night where I am ashamed of my fellow Americans for their failure to heed the warnings of wise and the kind-hearted.  Another night where I am ashamed of our inhumanity to man. Perhaps as he sits on his porch in Florida, drinking another bitter glass of lemonade under the shade of his porch, Justice Stevens shares in my shame on behalf of us all.

Ending Homelessness in New York State

So, I have an idea to end homelessness in my state at 0 net cost to taxpayers.

This sounds ridiculous I know, but if you follow along, I think it turns out to be actually doable.  You can stop fake laughing now.

I will need help to go from “idea” to “plan” (right now it’s like 12% of a plan).

Here’s the basic outline:

Recent estimates put the homeless total for New York State at roughly 77,000.  Of these, there are maybe 17,000 outside of New York City – we should start with them, since NYC gets complicated.   The state has statistics on all of these folks and whether they live alone or as part of family, their estimated ages etc.  It’s reasonable to assume that if you are homeless you qualify for financial assistance from the state (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), food stamps, etc).  Let’s ballpark that assistance at $800 per month.

There is a recent trend among hipster minimalists towards “tiny homes.”  These are basically solar powered single person units that can be built on trailers.  Here is an  Example of a Tiny Home in Upstate NY.  Homes like this cost (for a high end model) about $40,000 from stem to stern.

Also, the nice people at Tesla have come up with a game changer:  a solar battery cell for homes.  This can allow a solar home to run even after sunset without being hooked into the town grid.

Given that this is New York, and we can expect some rough winters, we also need to account for that, and one dual purpose option is the Solar Roadway being developed right now.  The basic concept is, these suckers generate heat, melting the snow, and also generating power the development.

Then, let’s look at transportation challenges faced by the extremely poor.  There is a new concept car scheduled to roll out in early 2016 called the Elio.  This car is an 84mpg trike, that costs $6,800.

We also have to consider the cost of hooking up the community to water and sewer, as well as having a fully functional health home on site [think primary care doctor, emergency services, mental health center and substance abuse treatment co-located in a single building].

Lastly, there would be the extra benefits of a planned community: community gardens scaled to the size of population, shared solar powered laundry facilities, a free for residents wi-fi hub.

I would have to do the square footage math to get an idea of how much land such an endeavor would take.  But let’s assume that you can get 83 acres for $250,000 (in Sullivan County).  That’s about $3,000 per acre, which seems reasonable.  Assume a home needs about an acre to be comfortable.

All together, we are talking at most, $60,000 per unit for land, vehicle, home and extras.  $60,000 per unit X 17,000 units is roughly one billion dollars.  Now, I know that seems like a lot of money.  But, think about what you get for that: 17,000 people in safe, energy efficient, easy to maintain housing, living in a community that has all the supports they might need.

But it gets better.  We do not do this program as a grant, out of the goodness of our hearts.  We do it as a loan.  So, as each unit fills up, the occupant signs off $200 per month (plus inflation) of their welfare benefits towards the cost of the property (or if they get work, $200 of their wages).   At that rate, in 25 years, the entire community is paid for lock stock and barrel.

Admittedly, this still leaves all the NYC nut to crack.  But, if it works, maybe those city homeless consider becoming rural New York residents.

Also, there may be education needs: 17,000 people is a big size, enough to anticipate some school age residents – but if that is the case, we can lease a space to a charter school – I have to imagine there are already some incredible education grants for schools whose entire population is below the poverty line.

So send me your thoughts.  If you want to help me with the formal planning, volunteer some time.  I think we can do this.